A proposal to offer special privileges to India’s parliamentarians by the country’s private airline companies has come in for sharp criticism.
The criticism came after a recent internal directive by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to all private airlines in the country to offer courtesies to Indian parliamentarians was made public in the Indian media.
Special privileges for parliamentarians include advance notice of flight delays, escorts to the plane, priority check-in, security, immigration clearances, lounge access, free parking, and complimentary refreshments.
Currently India’s national carriers, Air India and Indian Airlines, offer such privileges to parliamentarians across 132 Indian airports.
All Indian airports have designated VIP (Very Important Person) lounges. Airport assistants carrying travel bags of ministers and parliamentarians is a common sight in Indian airports.
The news comes at a time when the practice of offering privileges to politicians has been criticised by Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party.
Three private airlines have lost their arrival slots in the capital’s Indira Gandhi airport for lack of trained pilots to land in foggy conditions on Thursday. According to The Times of India newspaper the leaked proposal could have warranted an “action of this kind”.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh denied the circulation of any such guidelines and in a statement on Wednesday said, “DGCA has clarified that it has not given any instruction to private airlines to extend any facility to MPs”.
However state Civil Aviation Minister KC Venugopal had said in the parliament last August that special arrangements offered by the national carrier must be extended by private airlines to parliamentarians also.
Federal minister Praful Patel was reported as saying, “If an MP is given a little respect, I don’t think it should be blown out of proportion. Every carrier extends courtesies to commercial important persons”.
Congress parliamentarian Sanjay Nirupum criticised the proposal saying, “Parliamentarians should travel like a common man and I don’t see a requirement for special privileges”.